PR Insider: Don’t Be Stunted When Planning Programs

Arthur Solomon
Arthur Solomon

Some years ago, I had an opportunity to teach public relations at a couple of universities, so I purchased some teaching PR books. I found them unrealistic, unimaginative and also devoid of outside-the-box thinking. Everything followed a not imaginative “do-it-by-the-numbers” scenario. Not surprisingly I found no mentions of how stunts can gain media attention for clients.

Prior to, during and after my tenure at Burson-Marsteller stunts were always part of my PR arsenal.

Of course, when working at big blue chip international firms, suggesting stunts as part of a program will most likely not make the final program cut, unless you have wholehearted client backing permitting you to control the creative on accounts on which you work.

Nevertheless, even though stunts will probably be eliminated from your program suggestions, I suggest that newbies include them in their program planning. It will demonstrate creative thinking that might catch the eye of management.

One reason I always advise people entering our business to initially take a position at a small or midsize firm is because they are more likely to give you the immediate opportunity to think outside the box and are more willing to accept well thought out stunts. Creating stunts will expand your thinking on the various ways of gaining media attention for clients that will help you throughout your career. And for certain clients, they should be part of the program.

Below are rules when including stunts in your program:

  • Make certain that a stunt is only one element of a multi-faceted program.
  • Make certain that the stunt advances client objectives.
  • The stunt should be crafted so it can be a stand-alone element of the program.
  • Be certain stunts are not forced and are a perfect fit for the client.
  • Be certain that the stunt is original.
  • Be certain that the stunt is in good taste.
  • Good stunts are not whacky; they should be crafted as hard news events.
  • Rehearse the stunt prior to executing it.
  • Suggesting stunts will probably be new to your client; educate the client by using examples of stunts that have gained publicity in the past for major companies.
  • Provide the client with a step-by-step outline of the stunt you are suggesting.
  • Make video and take photographs of the stunt so it can be used at in-house client meetings, in-house organs and trade pubs.
  • If it is an outdoor stunt, factor in a rain date. This is especially important if you are using a personality as part of your stunt.
  • If the stunt is part of a national program, create it so it can be staged in various cities.
  • As with a press conference, contact the media the prior to and the morning of the stunt.
  • Hire a photographer who knows how to take news-type photos and can offer them to news outlets immediately after the stunt. This means having an account person work with the photographer and write the caption(s) on the spot. But it’s usually best to let a news-oriented photographer lead in the selection of the pictures to be serviced unless the account person has photo journalism experience.
  • Distribute to attending media detailed information about the client.

In these days when so many public relations efforts are similar, a good stunt can differentiate your client from the pack and attract media attention. Importantly to your career, it can also differentiate you to management from the do-it-by-the-number account execs.

Arthur Solomon was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles on national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations and sports business publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at